These questions were answered by more than 50 individual scientists and science writers with expertise in addiction. To get as many answered as possible, responses were written quickly based on the personal background and knowledge of each expert. Please note that there was not a secondary review or proofreading of each fact, and if readers have questions or comments about any response, they can ask further questions.

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Can breath mints be a drug?

-warda, New York

Probably not. Not counting alcohol, something needs to have molecules in it that fit special molecules on brain cells to give a mood effect to be a real drug. Have you taken the National IQ Challenge? Go to

-Jim Bjork

Can caffeine be addictive? Does it have negative short- or long-term effects? Is there any reason to be concerned for friends who have a lot of it?

-271828, Vermont

Caffeine can cause dependence, as anyone trying to stop drinking his or her two regular morning cups o'joe can tell you. But it is certainly not addictive to the same extent as drugs like cocaine, nicotine, or marijuana. In the amounts that are normally taken the short or long term effects are nothing that I would really worry about.

-Ruben Baler

does smoking marijuana while pregnant affect the baby's brain?

-Jessica, New Jersey

Excellent question, and something that everyone should be aware of. Cannabinoid receptors are now known to play an important role in the development of both the brain and other parts of the body. While we don't know the exact effects that marijuana has on a baby's brain, anyone who is pregnant or thinks they may be pregnant should never take any drugs unless it is prescribed by a doctor. Go here for more:

-Steve Grant

Does smoking weed affect driving?

-pHlevel1, Maryland

Yes--it affects the skills you need to drive safely--reaction time, motor coordination, and attention; and has been shown in driving simulator and road tests to impair performance. Further, when combined with even a small amount of alcohol, the effects are worse than either drug alone. Approximately 14% of fatally injured drivers in car crashes test positive for marijuana (sometimes in combination with other drugs).

-Joe Frascella

does sniffin expo markers get u high ??

-wonder women, Georgia

Yes. But if enough is inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Irreversible effects can be hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, or bone marrow damage. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs). For more information, see

-Nancy Pilotte

Does sniffing sharpies cause brain damage?

-Jasmine, Maryland

Oh, yeah, BIG TIME.

-Ruben Baler

does spice make your brain bleed?

-Hackettstown, New Jersey

That particular effect has not been reported to my knowledge.

-Ruben Baler

does taking drugs affect your ability to play sports?

-Hackettstown, New Jersey

Absolutely, but the effects depend on the drug. Some drugs impair your ability to play a sport, while others, like steroids, may give you a short-term unfair advantage. That is why competitive sports ban the use of many drugs.

-Steve Grant

does the blood alcohol level go by a person's BMI?

-megan, Kentucky

Yes! The lower your BMI, the higher your blood alcohol level will be when you drink.

-Aaron White

Does the cold turkey method ever work?

-Swag_engaged, Maryland

Yes - some people can stop using drugs cold turkey. Other's need additional support and treatment. More information on drug treatment is available at:

-Redonna Chandler

Does the drink Four Loko contain alcohol?

-marissamaria01, New Jersey

Yes, it contains quite a bit of alcohol. One can of beer is 12 ounces and contains 5% alcohol. One can of Four Loko is almost 24 ounces and contains 12% alcohol. That means that a single can of Four Loko contains between 4-5 servings of alcohol. That's a lot!

-Aaron White

Does using crack make you hyper and lose weight?

-2 cool 4 school,

Please don't try this at home! Crack is a form of cocaine and is highly addictive. It does produce feelings of energy and stimulation, and it often reduces appetite, but it has a lot of effects that can be quite negative. Some cocaine abusers report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. Stimulants like cocaine also cause the body's blood vessels to narrow, constricting the flow of blood, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. The heart may work so hard that it temporarily loses its natural rhythm. This is why there have been many cases of people dying suddenly from heart attacks after using cocaine. As a user begins to increase the dose and/or the frequency of drug taking, the duration and intensity of the high may lessen, and once it is over, users can feel very tired and depressed. There are much better ways to lose weight--like proper diet and exercise (like a fun sport). More information on stimulants can be found on NIDA for Teens:

-Nancy Pilotte


-TrUeBLaZe95, Maryland

It depends. It seems that if you are playing a lot of video games, you don't have time for sex; and drugs may affect your reaction time and alter your scores. You do want to win, don't you?

-Nancy Pilotte

does weed effct girls or boys differt ways

-liltone14@yahoo, Pennsylvania

Tricky question! We do know that boys and girls have different rates of drug use, and that has changed over time. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more boys than girls ages 12-17 use marijuana but more girls use psychotherapeutics to get high than boys. There is a lot we still don't know about how a drug will affect someone when they first use it, who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that each person is different, so it's a little like playing 'Russian Roulette' if you choose to use drugs. But, if you do, the earlier you stop, the more likely you will be to avoid addiction and the harmful brain changes that lead to it. We know that for both boys and girls, smoking marijuana can often lead to the same kinds of breathing problems that cigarette smokers have: coughing and wheezing. They tend to have more chest colds than non-users. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Marijuana can affect judgment and decision making. If you smoke it, you might do things you regret later - such as engaging in risky sexual behavior, which can result in exposure to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, or getting in a car with someone who has been drinking or is high on marijuana. Get the facts and make your own decisions by checking out this link:

-Marsha Lopez

Does weed have any effect on brain cells?

-David, Maryland

Yes... Marijuana binds to specific proteins in the brain, so called 'cannabinoid receptors'. These receptors are part of a finely calibrated 'endocannabioid' system found in the brain and the body that is involved in a whole host of functions, including pain regulation, reward, metabolism, mood and even immune function (how the body protects itself from infection). Marijuana floods the system, disrupting the finely orchestrated response that evolved over millions of years to do the many functions mentioned above. This leads to the effects that users feel--in the brain the cannabinoid receptors are found in the hippocampus--crucial for memory formation; the cerebellulm--important for coordinating movements; the cortex--involved in thinking and judgment; and reward areas--important for motivation. Marijuana disrupts the normal function of those areas and with repeated use the endocannabinoid system starts to adapt--to cope with the artificial situation created by exposure to marijuana. What does this mean in the long term--scientists are still working on that. We certainly know that people can become addicted to the drug (and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they quit--irritability, sleep and appetitite disturbances), and that they may suffer cognitively in the long run. Long term users also report decreased life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems and decreased career and educational attainment compared to their peers from similar backgrounds.

-Joe Frascella

does weed help your vison

-helpofcentral, Maryland

It was thought that orally administered THC (psychoactive ingredient in MJ) could be prescribed for glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the drainage system in the eye becomes blocked, thus preventing the nourishing fluid that is constantly produced inside the eyeball from flowing out. As excessive amounts of this fluid build up inside the eyeball, there is an increase in pressure. Unfortunately, THC (marinol) has been found effective in treating glaucoma only in very high doses under which patients have felt incapacitated and experienced unpleasant psychological effects.

-David Shurtleff

Does weed make you sleepy?

-Briah_Smiley:D, Maryland


-Susan Weiss

dose drugs affect a relationship?

-marly the great, Utah

Hi Marly - thanks for your question. Drugs can absolutely affect relationships between people. Drugs affect how people think and behave, and can seriously impair their judgment, so they make poor decisions. This can affect everything about relationships, from making smart choices about how you spend your free time, to money management, to the kinds of people you hang out with. NIDA has a great website just for teens that answers these and other questions -- it will give you real facts and helpful advice, without a bunch of lectures. Check it out at:

-Lori Ducharme

dpesn't steroids make you bigger? how are they so bad

-briannamarie, New Jersey

Oh, in so many ways. there is a long list of bad consequences of abusing steroids. You can watch me on a video telling you all about it here:!!!

-Ruben Baler

Drug, why is legal to take drugs? why not just ban all the drugs so all of us can get healthier?

-nihao, Maryland

Actually, it is only legal when properly prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate condition or, if its an over the counter medication, when following the manufacturers instructions. We can't ban all drugs because many drugs offer great medicinal benefits. Think of pain killers (which contain opioids) or Ritalin and amphetamines, which are stimulant drugs used for the treatment of ADHD. The challenge is to find the right balance to maximize the beneficial uses of drugs while minimizing their abuse. thanks for a great question.

-Ruben Baler

During the Prohibition, more people got drunk because they wanted to rebel and smuggle alcohol. Do you feel that if marijuana was made legal, the number of people who abuse it would decrease as well?

-jths2, New Jersey

I'm doubtful about that, especially in this country where opportunity seems to encourage more and more consumption (of anything). In addition, right now most people stop using marijuana as they get older--responsibilities, not worth the risk legally, etc. If it were to be legal and socially sanctioned more people might continue to use, and more health problems would become evident, including increased numbers of people who become addicted to the drug. Do you think that people you know who use it are doing it to be rebellious?

-Susan Weiss

ectsasy ? what happens when you do it?

-I love Pink! :), Kentucky

Thanks so much for this very important question. Ecstasy (also called MDMA) is a stimulant with pyschoactive properties, which means it affects your brain. When you first take it, it generally causes positive feelings and hyper alertness, and decreased anxiety. However, there are a number of negative effects associated with Ecstasy, including nausea, chills, sweating, cramping, and blurred vision. If you were to take too much, it can cause high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness and seizures. Because of its stimulant properties and the environments in which it is often taken (dances or 'raves'), Ecstasy is associated with vigorous physical activity for extended periods. This is one reason for one of the most significant, although rare, acute adverse effects - a marked rise in body temperature (hyperthermia). In the hours after taking the drug, Ecstasy produces significant reductions in thinking and decisionmaking ability. These changes, particularly those affecting memory, can last for up to a week, and possibly longer in regular users.

-David White

Elmo said drugs r bad is this true ?

-HELLO, Maryland

Hey, Elmo is right on on this one

-Cindy Miner

everything in moderation, could this hold true with drugs ?

-bn cv, New Jersey

Moderation is generally a good 'rule of thumb'; however, with drugs it is not clear that this holds. For example, the interaction between drugs and the exact effects it will have on the brain and body are not so well predicted. There are lots of individual differences in how we respond to a drug's effects, its addictive properties, etc.We are not sure how any individual will respond to a drug, and that is what we are trying to find with research. I mean we are trying figure out what specific factors make someone vulnerable to the addictive properties of drugs. Some people are very vulnerable; others are not. When someone tries a drug, he or she can never be sure how the drug will affect them. You can learn more about different drugs and their addictive properties on our teen web site:

-Joe Frascella

first time user of alcohol,what is all of the damage that could happen to your brain?


Drinking just once causes a bunch of changes in the brain that usually go away once the alcohol wears off. Alcohol slows down a part of the brain called the 'frontal lobes.' The frontal lobes help us make good decisions and stay out of trouble. Drinking alcohol increases the chances we will make bad decisions and get in trouble. Alcohol turns on a part of the brain called the 'reward system.' This is what makes alcohol feel good for some people. Alcohol slows down an area called the 'amygdala.' This area helps tell us when we are in danger. By slowing this area down we often fail to recognize when we could be in danger and makes it easier to make bad choices. Alcohol also shuts down a part of the brain called the 'hippocampus', which helps us make memories. Drinking too much alcohol can make it harder for us to make memories and even cause 'blackouts.' These are blank spots in our memories that prevent us from remembering what happened while we were drinking alcohol. Finally, alcohol can slow down the 'cerebellum', which is important for letting us keep our balance and walk without stumbling. Research tells us that drinking lots of alcohol during the teenage years can make the frontal lobes smaller. As mentioned above, the frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things and pay attention. Teenagers who drink a lot have problems with these things. Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain area that helps us learn and remember things. Teenagers who drink a lot also have trouble with learning. We do not know yet whether these problems go away if the teenager stops drinking.

-Aaron White

For a minor to drink, how much alcohol can really do damage to the person's body?

-ilovefood1, Kentucky

Well, drinking just one time can do some short term damage. That's why people feel sick the day after they drink alcohol. It's not known for sure how much a young person would have to drink to do major damage. However, we know that drinking when we are young can increase the chances of becoming an alcoholic and it is possible to damage the brain by drinking too much. Drinking a lot of alcohol over many years can lead to problems with your liver, pancreas, heart, immune system, and can increase your risk of getting certain kinds of cancer. So, the smartest decision is to wait until the legal drink age of 21 to drink alcohol.

-Aaron White

four loko, whats so bad???

-STEVE, Pennsylvania

Four Loko contains quite a bit of alcohol. One can of beer is 12 ounces and contains 5% alcohol. One can of Four Loko is almost 24 ounces and contains 12% alcohol. That means that a single can of Four Loko contains between 4-5 servings of alcohol. That's a lot of alcohol and can make it quite dangerous, particularly for people unaware of exactly how much alcohol is in one can of Four Loko. Also, the drink contains a large amount of caffeine. The exact amount is unknown as it is not publicized. The combination of lots of alcohol and lots of caffeine can lead to serious side effects from both of the drugs at the same time. The high alcohol content combined with the caffeine content has many parents and other adults worried about kids getting hurt from drinking it.

-Aaron White

FROM BARCELONA: Which is the substance that makes the drug addictive?

-Elisabet, Other

Welcome! It is the drug itself that is addictive. Addictive drugs react with very specific receptors in the brain; they all release a neurotransmitter, dopamine, that some neurons use to communicate with each other. As it turns out, the release of dopamine signals that something different and unexpected is occurring in the environment, and dopamine puts an imprint or special stamp on the event so that you remember it more easily. Addictive drugs usually have very fast or immediate results, and the effects often last only a short period of time. When people begin to depend on the drugs to make themselves feel good, their brains are changing and producing reactions and behaviors that we call addiction. You may be addicted if you spend a lot of your time thinking about the drug or how to get it, or if it becomes more important than personal relationships in your life. But you should also know that if this happens, treatment works--there is hope. For more information, please go to .

-Nancy Pilotte

from where im from a lot of people use crack how can i stay away from it

-Philly4lifeRyan, Pennsylvania

First, know that everyone isn't using it--even if it seems that way. One way to stay away from drugs is to surround yourself with friends who think like you do. Another way is to fill your life with things that you enjoy and keep you busy (too busy to be slowed by drugs)--sprots, theater, choir, whatever it is that you like to do and keeps you around healthy, responsible people. Remember why you've made the choice that you have. Check out these resources and

-Aria Crump

Has actually smoking weed ever killed a human?

-Hackettstown, New Jersey

Yes...but probably in a car wreck or some other accident. It also has effects on the heart, and has been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and bad outcomes from heart attacks--although this is probably most relevant to someone who is older or anyone with a heart condition.

-Joe Frascella